Interview with Ece Pinar Demirel

When you step into Ece Pinar Demirel’s Istanbul apartment, the first thing you notice is the smell. The rich fragrance of leather hangs in the warm summer air and tiny scraps can be found lingering under her workspace in the corner. The finished product - an exquisitely chic, yet timeless envelope clutch - rests on the top.

Recently, we sat down with Ece to learn more about her handbags, what inspires her, and to discover her must-sees and dos in the city.

How did you get started designing handbags?

Growing up, I was constantly around my grandparents who both made a living knitting and sewing. They came up with their own designs and patterns and included me in the creative process. Soon, I too was falling in love with knitting and sewing. I just found so much joy in creating something from a simple piece of fabric or colorful yarn. That joy led me to start designing under my own label.
The creative process is still a family affair, though. When I visit home, my mom, aunts, and I sit around our sewing studio and explore new knitting patterns and styles while sipping Turkish coffee.

We love your modern, clean aesthetic - how do you come up with the designs for your handbags?

I spent time in Milano getting my Masters in Accessory Design. The city really helped shape my creative outlook when designing. There is something magical about Milan. Surrounded by timeless historical buildings, I could always find a calm spot in the middle of this large, sometimes chaotic cosmopolitan city.

I want my pieces to be the same - strikingly beautiful but still classic; timeless.

What are the steps of your creative process? What is is unique about it?

There are many meticulous steps in the process – from choosing the leather, the color of the thread to the final crafted piece. Each piece of leather has its own, unique history. I hand cut, craft and stitch each piece. It is that creativity and commitment I want people appreciate.

You should also know that leather is not a material that accepts failure. By that, I mean that everything you do with leather has to be well calculated. Meticulously calculated. One simple mistake is irreversible (and expensive!).

Istanbul has so much to offer and see. But if a friend was visiting Istanbul for the weekend, what would be on the itinerary?

Just for the weekend? I guess I would start out with the Historic Peninsula. It is the center of ancient Istanbul. Four major empires had been ruled from this point. Topkapi Palace, Sultanahmet Mosque, Hagia Sophia and the Grand Bazaar are all in that peninsula.

Next stop would be a Turkish coffee break at Istanbul Modern in Karakoy. The restaurant’s terrace has magnificent views overlooking the Bosphorus.

After that, we’d go to the Galata neighborhood. Galata is an adorable, up-and-coming neighborhood surrounded by coffee shops, restaurants and curated boutiques featuring the works of Turkish independent designers and artists. I can never get enough of the vibe in Galata.

Finally, I’d take them to my favorite place to escape in the city - Ihlamur Palace.